The appearance of drugs on the international market started at the beginning of the 1900s, but then slowly decreased in popularity by 1940. However, they regained attention in towards the beginning of the 1970s, when drugs were glamorized by the media as being recreational substances since little was known about their toxic effect at the time.
As such, the use of drugs was somehow encouraged by writers and newspaper articles that were claiming that drugs like cocaine do not cause physical dependence, perhaps only psychological. The curiosity of experiencing euphoria and novelty combined with a lack of knowledge increased the number of drug users year after year by at least 12%.
If before 1980 the Western nations were seeing drugs as unharmful, they soon started to recognize the problem and its effects. Consequently, drugs became a concern for public’s health, especially for the young generation.
The Use of Drugs on The Rise
Due to the increased use of drugs, scientists started to notice deviant behaviors in drug addictive individuals, pushing researchers to investigate the correlation between the substances and the brain. Subsequently, they soon identified a multifaced problem with severe impacts on the neurological and emotional functionality: mood disturbances, anxiety and panic attacks, irrational thinking accompanied by psychotic episodes.
The war against drugs has then become a priority on governments’ list as well a target for schools that aimed to prevent drug misuse.
Despite the effort and emphasis on the long-term effects of drugs on mental health, the number of adolescent addicts continues to dramatically increase with no signs of abating. Reports and official statistics indicate that approximately 10 million children around the world have possessed or tried drugs such as marijuana, cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy, at least once.
More worryingly, around 68% of Western teenagers claim that they do not see drugs as being harmful, which may indicate that they are not fully aware of the adverse short and long-term effects of toxic substances. It could possibly be assumed that such perspective is encouraged by opinions which suggest that drugs do not necessarily cause addiction or by a precarious education on the subject. As a matter of fact, surveys indicate that toxic substance users generally start consuming soft drugs and then slowly increase the dosage or replace them with hard drugs.
In most of the cases, the main factors that lead to drug consumption are lack of knowledge and attraction to risk. Although schools provide information on drug abuse, a broader approach should be applied in order to put a greater emphasis on the harmful effects. Perhaps more intense teaching on the subject, as well as a close collaboration with the local authorities, could create effective prevention strategies.
Forbidden and dangerous activities seem to be teenagers’ attraction. Although it is commonly known that males are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors, data indicates that females display similar interest in risky activities. This may happen as a wish to be socially accepted or a desire to gain attention and recognition from their peers. Usually, the hidden reasons of these desires are a low self-esteem or confidence.
Sometimes teenagers are aware of the negative effects of drugs, but they choose to ignore them and instead, they focus on the euphoric mental state that drugs create. This could happen as a desire to escape reality, suppress fear, anxiety or other emotional issues in order to achieve a peaceful state of consciousness. As a matter of fact, teenagers who live in a hostile environment or are deprived of parental attention/affection are more prone to use drugs.
Teenagers whose parent/s use drugs are predisposed to drug misuse, whether because they wish to experience the “thrill” or due to external pressure. If they grow into an environment that reinforces such choices, children believe that it is normal to consume drugs or alcohol.
Sadly, more celebrities or rap singers have been encouraging drug use through songs and videos in the past decades. While TV programmes give little attention to the consequences of drugs, famous celebrities exercise a significant influence over teenagers’ lifestyle choices since they are perceived as role models.
Researched-based programs are composed of a variety of prevention strategies with the purpose of reducing drug abuse in adolescences. The programs demonstrated their effectiveness over time as young participants presented improved habits and behavioral outcomes.
Based on the sample of participants, the programs contain 3 categories:
- Universal Program-discusses the protective & risk factors within schools and communities to a larger number of children/teenagers
- Selective Program-the targets are children/teenagers whose factors may influence their tendencies of drug abuse
- Indicated Programs– it is addressed to children/teenagers who have already used drugs
Although these programs continue being available and effective, communities should explore additional options that could highlight the problem and stress the importance of protective factors.
While education plays a major role in preventing drug abuse, families are equally responsible and influential on children’s decisions. It is highly necessary that parents build quality relationships with their offspring, based on trust, care, affection, and openness. Otherwise, children are prone to search for guidance and validation in activities that will hinder their development.
*If you are a parent and your child displays a strange behavior, do not simply blame it on his personality, nor regard it as an act of disobedience. Remember that teenagers go through a transitional phase and they have difficulties in adapting/expressing their emotions. Take your time to patiently discuss and listen to what they have to say without criticizing what you hear. A burst of anger from you will only make the child be less open with you.
Any advice and suggestion should be detailed and explained, so the child can understand the mistake, the consequences, and the solution.